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Paul Jenkins

For a guy who likes to sing with the chorus railing about federal overreach in Alaska, Sen. Mark Begich is an unabashed buttinski, cherry-picking state issues to weigh in on, while dodging others.

He chided state lawmakers last week, for instance, that they dare not allow Alaskans to vote on repealing state constitutional language that prohibits public money from supporting private or religious education.

Public money for public schools, Begich said: "Period."...

Paul Jenkins

This is going to be an absolutely insane year, politically, and Alaska could have a very different face next year.

In coming months, we are going to suffer through a critical, zillion-dollar U.S. Senate race -- which at its core is about Barack Obama -- and another for Alaska's lone and long-locked-up congressional seat. There is a race for governor and lieutenant governor (Is it true there is a new Sobriety Party candidate?) and a slew of House and Senate candidates who will have to kill puppies to pique media attention...

Paul Jenkins

Here is a headline that pries the manhole cover off that dark, scary hole where the left goes to scrape up whatever passes nowadays for its thinking: "State Democratic leaders call for oil tax cut repeal, more for public schools."

"Wow!" I thought. Here is a bit of oxymoronic whimsy to brighten the day. These guys must have found a way to wring blood out of a turnip -- repeal oil tax reform and get more money for schools. Alas, they were fibbing -- again.

When it comes to money and oil in Alaska, everybody who can read knows we are facing a math problem, not a political problem; that repealing oil tax reform guarantees less money for education and schools -- and everything else. A repeal means a return to the bad old days: less oil, less revenue, less of everything...

Paul Jenkins

Sen. Lisa Murkowski ticks off some Alaskans. Too moderate; too reasonable; too measured, they say. Let's face it, her no-fireworks, middle-of-the-road politics have all the pizzazz of a Sean Parnell speech. She offers few surprises to anybody except Joe Miller, who has a Bronze Star.

It is, therefore, refreshing to see her get a little cranky, though it may be bad news for el presidenté and his forked-tongue minions. Some observers say Murkowski is frustrated; that she realizes there is no working with some of these people; that she finally understands this administration could not care less about Alaska...

Paul Jenkins

As the debate heats up about Senate Joint Resolution 9, the threshold question we should be asking is this: Can we do a better job of teaching our children and getting parents more involved in the education system, or are we satisfied with what we have now?

If we can do better, if we want to throw off the inertia of years of doctrinaire bureaucracy and unresponsive officialdom, and inject competition, now is the time and SJR 9 is the way. Those invested in the status quo say no, it is risky; more money and less interference are the answers...

Paul Jenkins

So, you are Mark Begich, a die-hard liberal Democrat in a red meat, conservative state chock full of beards and flannel shirts and folks with long memories.

You get the cut-rate eats in the U.S. Senate cafeteria only because of a convergence of cosmic weirdness. Crooked federal prosecutors itching to bag Ted Stevens, your GOP opponent in 2008, broke the rules to nail him as the election loomed. What a strange, lucky break for you...

Paul Jenkins

The Legislative Finance Division's unblinking look at Gov. Sean Parnell's budget is enough to give anybody the screaming heebie-jeebies, but only the brain dead have not seen it coming for years.

The division's analysis tells us what we already know: We spend too much, save too little, rely desperately on the next boom to save us and pretend everything will be just fine. It is, after all, what suffices for long-term fiscal policy in Alaska.

This time, though, the jig may be up.

"In just a few short years," the Finance Division report warns, "the bottom line fiscal question facing Alaska legislators has changed from "How much can we save this year?" to "How large is the deficit?"...

Paul Jenkins

Sarah Palin, the worst thing to happen to Alaska since the Spanish flu, managed only two major legislative accomplishments in her brief, tumultuous tenure as the state's chief executive and now -- thankfully and at long last -- both have been repudiated.

It has taken Alaska a long time to find its way back to square one from her disastrous two-year stint, but make no mistake, there are those who would return to that morass in a heartbeat.

Palin, in a single, misbegotten year, crafted a tax scheme guaranteeing future reduced North Slope investment and production -- and dwindling state revenues -- and she engineered a gas line licensing scam to block North Slope producers from building or controlling a large-diameter natural gas line they were expected to finance...

Paul Jenkins

Here's a surprise: The percentage of Americans who identify themselves as political independents is at an all-time high. If you believe the Gallup folks, something like 41 percent of the 18,000 or Americans they chatted up last year claimed that political non-affiliation.

The percentage claiming Republican DNA is at an all-time low -- 25 percent last year, the lowest in the past quarter-century.

Gallup says the increasing percentage of Americans who claim to be independents is costing Republicans more than Democrats. All that should be bothersome to the GOP -- and alarming. For the record, 31 percent confessed to being Democrats, a level stagnant for the past four years...

Paul Jenkins

With the new year, those desperate to return to a failed oil tax system that promotes a huge government rip-off will begin baying at the moon in earnest to get their way at the expense of Alaska's future.

Given their previous record, they will be more than willing -- even eager -- to fudge facts or spin their own. They like ever-bigger government and more spending, no matter the long-term economic wreckage.

The fight over implementing the new oil tax reform, Senate Bill 21, which finally fixed the Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share tax mess, was last year's hottest political story. The fight to keep that reform despite a Democrats-driven primary election referendum to repeal it could overshadow even this year's contentious U.S. Senate race...

Paul Jenkins